When it comes to designer duds, the economic downturn has turned up the heat on fashion bargains. Canadian-bred, N.Y.C.-based stylist Tammy Eckenswiller, who has styled everyone from Rihanna to Lindsay Lohan to Heidi Klum, says there are huge bargains to be had.
Top shops All the places you thought were out of your price range might not be now. "Go to the most expensive stores--that's where the biggest discounts are. You can buy designer pieces at the same prices as some low-end brands' full price, and sometimes less," says Eckenswiller. "I bought a pair of YSL boots for $400, which can be the same price as a full-price pair of boots at Aldo!"
Do the classics With the most exclusive stores offering massive savings, it might be tempting to snap up everything in sight. But Eckenswiller says now is the time to invest in pieces you will wear for years: a suit, a little black dress and coats.
Luxe redux Don't waste money on one-season splurges from high-end shops. The key to looking luxe without spending a mint is to mix classic, expensive pieces with cheaper trendy items.
Custom order Inject a bit of extravagance into your wardrobe with a custom-made piece you'll be able to wear for years. "Try Canadian designers like Susan Dicks or Izzy Camilleri," says Eckenswiller. "I had a cashmere coat made for $1,000 three years ago. I still wear it and it looks fantastic."
Wine and Spirits
For many people, nothing says luxury like a fine wine. But with finances stretched, your favourite pricey Cabernet might all of a sudden seem like a frivolous treat that all-too-quickly goes down the hatch. Kevin Brauch, host of The Thirsty Traveler on the Food Network and a man who knows his drink, says tough economic times are all about experimenting.
Location, location, location! "Australia, France, California--they are the big tickets when it comes to wine," says Brauch. "But if you're willing to look to Chile or Argentina, those up-and-coming South American countries are producing great quality wine." Brauch also points to German Rieslings and even Hungarian wine as low-cost but tasty alternatives.
Looks can deceive If you worry how your new Hungarian find will look on the table, Brauch says there's an easy fix: Put the wine in a decanter. "If it's a wine you like the taste of but you don't like the bottle, you can disguise it," he says.
Bargain bubbly For a thrifty alternative to French champagne, try Spanish cava. "You can pick up fresh and fruity bottles from $12 to $18 apiece," says Brauch.
Oh, Canada! In terms of homegrown wine, Brauch says his favourite well-priced vino is Henry of Pelham's Baco Noir, at $13 to $14 per bottle.
With the economy on a slow burn, airlines and travel companies are working hard to get clients to take that vacation they've been putting off. "This year is unlike any other," says Loren Christie, Canada AM's travel expert. "In 2009, the last-minute deal hunters are going to have a great year."
Southern comfort The hottest emerging destination of the moment is South America. "I've been to Buenos Aires a couple times, and the exchange rates are amazing," says Christie. "And Air Canada's offering great discount rates to Chile and Peru. I think you'll see South America getting more popular because it's very European but it's also warm in the winter."
We just click There are scads of websites offering cheap flights and hotels (expedia.ca, travelocity.ca and itravel2000.com, to name a few). One useful site, hotwire.com, offers bargain basement hotel rates for cities worldwide, but with a twist: The site will tell you the location, star status and amenities of your hotel, but won't reveal the name of the hotel until after you've booked.
Package deal When it comes to saving in major cities like New York, London and Paris, Christie says it's all about finding hidden deals: "Where you really get value is in the packages. Most hotels probably have 12 to 15 packages going on, but they don't tell you that when you call to book a room. Ask the people on the other end, and you'll be surprised." For $250, for instance, you could get breakfast for two, a movie, late checkout and passes to a museum.
Your house or mine? Christie also points out the benefits of house-trading (try sites like craigslist.org and homelink.ca). "People think no one would want to stay in their homes, but you have no idea," he says. "Maybe they need to be close to the University of British Columbia because their child is graduating, and they happen to live in a villa in Greece."
You may be aching to retire your partner's framed Risky Business poster and give your space a little refinement. A smashing piece of art will always do the trick, taking your humble abode from cookie-cutter cute to chic and cultured. Helena Reckitt, senior curator of programs for Toronto's modern-art Mecca, The Power Plant, says there are ways to bring art into your life without sacrificing a mortgage payment or two.
Student rate Around May each year, art school grads present their works in a final exhibition. "Students are generally delighted to sell their work, and a couple hundred dollars is probably more than they are expecting," says Reckitt. And you could end up with a pot of gold if your protege hits it big in the art world.
Cool copy Instead of an original work of art, a limited edition print can be pleasing to both the eye and the wallet. "Many established artists do beautiful prints, and you can pick them up for a few hundred dollars," says Reckitt.
Go big Large art shows (such as Edmonton's The Works Art & Design Festival in June, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in July, or Fredericton's Art Trek '09 in October) can expose you to up-and-coming artists with reasonably priced wares. It eliminates the pesky gallery fee, plus you usually get to meet the artist, which comes in handy when it comes time to impress guests.
Opening night Hit a local gallery and play collector for a night. "Art openings are always free to the public--you don't have to be invited," says Reckitt. Sip a glass of free vino and party like an art star without spending a cent.
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